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Which is Better: Universal Studios or Islands of Adventure?

Which is Better: Universal Studios or Islands of Adventure?

If you are planning to visit Universal Orlando and you only have time to visit one theme park, which one should you choose? Here is a rundown of the differences between Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure to help you select the best park for you and your travel party.

Which Universal Park Is Best

Credit: Universal

If you are heading to Florida and you want to visit Universal Orlando, you might wonder which park will give you the most bang for your buck. Of course, an ideal trip would allow time for both Universal Studios Florida and Universal Islands of Adventure.

But, the reality is that sometimes visitors have limited time and limited budgets and have to pick just one Universal Orlando theme park to enjoy. If that is the case, here is a rundown of the differences between Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure to help you make the very best decision.

This guide will take you through factors such as thrill rides, little kid attractions, Harry Potter attractions, and MORE so that you can get a feel for both parks.


Credit: Marisol

Fortunately, price will not be much of a factor in the decision. Both Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure have the same 1-Park-1-Day Ticket price.

However, it is important to know that Universal Orlando uses variable pricing for tickets. A Universal Orlando theme park ticket may be as little as $119 per day per adult or as much as $179 per day per adult depending on the date.

Winner: It’s a draw. Right now you cannot go wrong since pricing is identical.

Major Franchises

Credit: Katie

If a specific movie or franchise is important to you, you may prefer to base your selection on that. Here is what to expect at each park.

Universal Studios: Depending on what you like, Universal Studios may have an edge. Here you will find blockbusters like Transformers, The Mummy, ET, and Men in Black.

You can also enjoy The Simpsons, Despicable Me, Jimmy Fallon, and The Fast and The Furious. Of course, the park has its own section devoted to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, too. And, eventually, a Dreamworks-themed area will open that includes Trolls.

universal orlando minion kevin meet and greet

Islands of Adventure: Aside from Harry Potter, Islands of Adventure has a completely different collection of intellectual property on display. Here, you will find blockbusters like Jurassic Park, Hulk, and Spiderman. You will also see Dr. Doom, X-Men, Poppeye, Dr. Seuss, and King Kong.

Winner: It’s another toss-up. Universal Studios might have the edge simply because there is more variety. But, it really all comes down to what you love.

BIG Thrill Rides

Credit: Universal Orlando

If you are after thrill rides, here is what you need to do. The two parks are NOT created equal.

Universal Studios: RIP Ride Rockit is the biggest thrill ride you will find in Universal Studios. This coaster has a verticle lift that is absolutely terrifying as well as several inversions. You will also find Revenge of the Mummy, which is a fun indoor coaster.

Credit: Katie

Islands of Adventure: On the other hand, you will find several major thrill rides over at Islands of Adventure including Jurassic World VelociCoaster, which tops the charts in terms of intensity. The Incredible Hulk Coaster is also intense as it propels riders through inversions at high speeds.

And, don’t forget about Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure, which remains so popular that it is not even offered on Express Pass. There is also a drop tower called Dr. Doom’s Fearfall that is only for the bravest of adventurers.

Winner: Islands of Adventure is the clear winner if you want Thrill Rides. VelociCoaster, Hulk, and Haggrids are ALL unique, top-notch experiences. Universal Studios just does not compare.

Water Rides

Credit: Universal

If you love water rides, there is also a CLEAR winner. Islands of Adventure offers 3 opportunities to get soaked. It covers all the water ride bases. You can enjoy a HUGE splashdown on Jurassic Park River Adventure. Or, take a raft ride through the rapids on Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges. Finally, enjoy a classic log flume ride when you hop aboard Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls.

Winner: Islands of Adventure is the definite winner if you like water rides. In fact, Universal Studios HAS no water rides at all.

Little Kid Attractions

Credit: Kenny

People always wonder whether there is anything for little children to do on a visit to Universal Orlando. The answer is… sort of! Almost every attraction has a height requirement, so be sure to take a peek before you head for a visit. But, assuming your child does meet the minimum requirements, here is what is available.

Universal Studios: With the kids’ area under construction, Universal Studios has little to offer small children. If they love Despicable Me, they might enjoy Illuminations Minion Mayhem if they are tall enough. And, they might also enjoy Illumination’s Villain-Con Minion Blast. Kang & Kodos’ Twirl ‘n’ Hurl, which is a spinning scrambler-like attraction and E.T. Adventure are also good options.

Credit: Universal

Islands of Adventure: If your children enjoy Dr. Seuss, they will probably have a good time with 4 Dr. Seuss attractions at Islands of Adventure. There is a nice variety of kid-friendly stuff including a carousel, a classic spinner, a train ride, and a Cat and the Hat attraction. Storm Force acceleration is a bit like a scrambler at the county fair.

Not only is Pteronadon Flyers, an aeriel Jurassic Park-themed ride, kid-friendly, but there is a maximum height requirement, and all riders must be accompanied by a smaller rider to enjoy it. Flight of the Hippogriff in Wizarding World of Harry Potter is a child-sized coaster. Finally, there are a couple of play areas to be found at Camp Jurassic and If I ran the Zoo.

Winner: Islands of Adventure has a slight edge FOR NOW. But, this could change! Watch for Universal Studios to overtake it once the new Dreamworks area is complete. It will might add enough variety to give it the upper hand.

Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Credit: Universal

Each section of the park is home to a distinct piece of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. The parks are connected by The Hogwarts Express. But, you won’t be able to experience it without Park-to-Park Tickets. So, if you can only select one park or the other, you are also going to eliminate access to Hogwarts Express. However, each park has PLENTY to offer.

Universal Studios: If you don’t know where to look for Diagon Alley, you might completely miss it. Its elusive location is part of the thematic immersion that makes it so spectacular. Once you find the entrance, you will truly feel like you are in one of the films. In fact, I would venture to say it is the BEST themed area in any theme park anywhere.

You will LOVE the attention to detail. Its premier attraction is Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts. This ride should probably be classified as a thrill ride as it is relatively intense. And, the queue is among the best in the business. You will also find plenty to eat, lots of Butterbeer, and unique shopping experiences.

Credit: Universal

Islands of Adventure: On the other hand, it you want the Hogwarts experience, you are going to need to head to Islands of Adventure. The Castle is truly a sight to behold. It contains Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, which is a thrill ride unlike anything you have ever seen. It is tame compared to its Universal Studios Counterpart, but WOW, is it well done! If you want to fly on a Nimbus 2000 and take part in a Quidditch match, this is the one.

Moreover, you can also enjoy Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure, and Flight of the Hippogriff for a total of 3 attractions. And of course, the food is cooking and the Butterbeer is flowing here, too.

Winner: This is the HARDEST decision of all. Technically, Islands of Adventure will give you more Wizarding World bang for your buck since there are more attractions there. And, it is hard to advise anyone to skip Hogwarts Castle. Alas, it is equally hard to advise anyone to skip Diagon Alley! This one is a draw with the edge going to Islands of Adventure.


Credit: Universal

If you love to meet characters, you will find plenty in both parks. Here again, personal preference will come into play.

Universal Studios: Here, you can find the Hollywood character zone with Marilyn, Woody Woodpecker, Betty Boop and more. Sponge Bob and Patrick Starfish are also available. Perhaps the most popular are the Despicable Me characters such as Minions, Gru, Margo, Edith, and Agnes.

And you might also encounter a few characters from the film Sing. Simpsons characters and Transformers also tend to be out and about.

Credit: KtP

Islands of Adventure: Here, you will have a chance to see Dr. Seuss characters including The Cat in the Hat, Sam I Am, Thing One, and Thing Two, and The Grinch. If you like Marvel, you could see Spider-Man, Captain America, Cyclops, Wolverine, Storm, and Rogue, as well as Marvel Villains like Doctor Doom and the Green Goblin.

Dino fans can enjoy the Raptor Encounter IF they dare. You can also see timeless characters such as Betty Boop, Popeye, and Olive Oyl.

Winner: It’s a draw. If there is someone a member of your travel party is longing to meet, this might make a good deciding factor if you are having trouble choosing your park.


Credit: Universal

Universal Studios: There is a good bit to enjoy entertainment-wise at Universal Studios. Check out Universal’s Superstar Parade if you want to see characters. Take in Universal Orlando’s Horror Make-Up Show, The Blues Brothers Show, Animal Actors on Location, or the ever-impressive Bourne Stuntacular!

You can also enjoy The Tales of Beedle the Bard or Celestina Warbeck and the Banshees or even take a peak into the Knight Bus over in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Islands of Adventure: The entertainment offerings for Islands of Adventure are pretty limited. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter has the Frog Choir and the Triwizard Spirit Rally. Depending on the season, you might be able to enjoy the Light Show On Hogwarts Castle. Little ones will probably enjoy Oh! The Stories You’ll Hear. Other than that, there are a few pay-to-play game spots.

Winner: Universal Studios is the CLEAR winner. If shows and entertainment are important to you, this is the way to go.


Credit: KtP

Overall, both parks have plenty of fun to pack into a day. If you must choose only one, consider what is most important to you, weigh your options, commit to your ticket, and don’t look back. It is hard NOT to have fun wherever you end up. Just don’t go to Universal if you are looking for Mickey Mouse.

Have you ever been to Universal Orlando? Which park would YOU send someone to if they only had one day to visit one park? Let us know in the comments. And, be sure to pass this along to anyone you know who is hoping to visit Universal Orlando.

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Friday 17th of November 2023

I Love both parks but the best for me and my wife is universal studios, We love the shows and just the way the park itself is. We can never get tired of both parks and with the new park coming we can't wait and hope that the rides there will be for all people shape and sizes, because i seen some pretty unhappy people in the parks when they are not able to ride the movies.


Friday 17th of November 2023

Thank you for reading and for contributing thoughts. The new park is going to be such an exciting addition. I hope that rode vehicles can accommodate everyone safely as well.

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